Loving God

April 26, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon 1 in Sermon Series
“Five Marks of a Christian”
Adapted from: “Five Marks of a Methodist”
By Steve Harper
Matthew 22:36-38 CEB
1 John 4:16-21 MSG
Loving God…

A reading from John found in 1 John 4, verses 16-21, listen for a word from God to you and me, the people of God.

Prayer for God’s word to be heard through me or in spite of me…

It has been pretty great being able to be a parishioner instead of the pastor for the past couple of weeks. I have been able to sit back and listen to sermons instead of giving them. But to tell you the truth, I am so glad to be back in the pulpit this week. But sitting in the congregation has really given me things to ponder over.
A couple of weeks ago, Steve Curtis preached on the “rest of the story” after Jesus rose from the dead. He talked about how Jesus was seen by others after His resurrection and victory over sin and death. For some reason they were not able to recognize Jesus. Even Mary, who wept at the tomb because Jesus was not there, thought Him to be the gardener. Could it be that there whole faith was hinged on the visible rather than the invisible? Why do we not recognize Jesus at times when He is standing right in front of us? Could it be that theirs and our relationship with Jesus sometimes misses the mark so to speak…? We also learned about how we are given the commandment to go and do likewise as we share the story of Jesus to a world that is in need of a resurrection.
When Ray Foss preached last week, we saw how the story should change us. Not only are we called to make disciples but we are also to let the story change us into Easter people. We can’t preach the resurrection if we are not first transformed by it. How is that story changing you and me? How do we know that we are being changed by the story in order to become part of the story that began with Jesus’ resurrection, giving us new life in Him for all who believe? Is there some “tangible”…some “measurable” way…something visual…to tell if we are changing or not?

Now since my surgery I have been able to catch up on some reading I have been wanting to do. As I have been reading, there has been one book that has really caught my attention. It is written by Steve Harper and it is titled “Five Marks of a Methodist: The Fruit of a Living Faith.” It has been very interesting to read. But as I have been reading it one thing has stuck out in my mind. This book is not just for “Methodist”, it is for all who follow Christ. It gives five distinct ways to tell…to visually see…that you are being “changed by the story”, not just reading it.
The five ways are as follows:
A “Christian” not just Methodist:
1.   Loves God
2.   Rejoices in God
3.   Gives Thanks
4.   Loves Others
These are the five things I would like for us to take a look at over the next few weeks. I think it is important to not only change but to see the changes that have taken place in our lives since we decided to follow Jesus and let the story change how we live out our faith walks.
          So the first of these character traits is that we love God. Now I am not just talking about your every day love but truly loves God from the bottom of our feet to the top of our heads. The love we have for God is what drives us in our relationship with Him. The more we are in love with Him the more we want to know Him. And the more we know Him the more we want of Him in our lives.
The scriptures that were read this morning were all about loving God…Loving God with all that we are…from the very depths of our soul. But as the scriptures tell us, we did not love God first but it was He who loved us. As a matter of fact He loved us to the point of sending His Son to die in our stead. Now I don’t know about you but that fact alone would make me want to get to know this God better. And as we draw near to Him and learn more about Him, our love for Him grows. But it began with His love for humanity not the other way around.
          As Peter was asked by Jesus in John 21 “Do you love me” three times, we can hear Jesus asking us the same thing. As He asks us, each time we look deeper within ourselves and ask “what does it mean to truly love God…what would that look like…am I madly, truly, deeply in love with my First Love?”
          Salvation means wholeness…we as Christ Followers need to realize that. It doesn’t just mean we are going to heaven but it also means living abundantly while we are here. But as the scripture from Matthew tells us…we must love God. For all that God has done we love Him in return with all that we are and have. We do this in every aspect of our life. We do it every day and to everyone. As we love God we love other people that God created as well…this is part of loving God. This is loving God…with all that we are…loving the One who loved us first.
          Jesus is calling us to a radically different relationship as He calls to His disciples, past and present, asking “do you love Me”. How do we know that the story is changing us? We love God. But are we like Peter when the Lord asked Him if he loved Him? Do we get upset, not really understanding the question being asked or do we let the question resonate within us as we ask ourselves do we love God?
          Listen to the words of John Wesley and let them sink deep into your soul:
“God is the joy of our heart, and the desire of our soul, which is constantly crying out. “Whom have I in Heaven but you? And there is none upon the earth that I desire but you!” My God and my all! You are the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!”
These words open the door to our whole being, commencing a journey that moves us from the superficial to substance. We move from membership to discipleship. We move beyond churchianity to Christianity. A disciple loves God.
Loving God is something that grows each day as you learn to trust and obey. Loving God is not something that is a onetime thing. It is something that is a lifetime of growing and developing. Let the story change you into whom God would have you be. How much do you really love God? Listen; can you hear Jesus asking do you love me? How will you answer Him?



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